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Juan Wiggins v. Brian String

February 9, 2011

JUAN WIGGINS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN STRING, ANTHONY BENIGNO, CARMINE DELVICARIO, DANETTE PALMORE, JOSEPH HANSEN, AND RICKY WILKS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez

MEMORANDUM OPINION ORDER

This matter has come before the Court on a June 14, 2010 motion to dismiss by Defendants [6] and a June 17, 2010 motion for sanctions by the Plaintiff [7]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff's motion for sanctions will be denied.

Background

Plaintiff pro se Juan Wiggins filed a Complaint with this Court on April 1, 2010, alleging breach of fiduciary duty by Union defendants, as well as a violation of equal protection and due process.

On April 13, 2010, this Court allowed Plaintiff leave to file an amended Complaint properly pleading subject matter jurisdiction.

An Amended Complaint was filed on April 30, 2010, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, alleging that Plaintiff was denied due process and equal protection by the Defendants, officials of UFCW Local Union No. 152, the International Union President, and Plaintiff's store manager, when Plaintiff was terminated from his position at the Village Shop Rite in Absecon, New Jersey.

The Amended Complaint asserts that on March 12, 2009, Bob Hawkins, a dairy manager at the Shop Rite, who was also the Union Shop Steward, called a meeting with Plaintiff and the store manager, Defendant Ricky Wilks, and recommended that Plaintiff be terminated for poor job performance. Plaintiff alleges that he should have been afforded the protection of the shop steward, since he was a member in good standing of Local 152. Apparently, Plaintiff then petitioned for a new shop steward, allegedly with some level of support from his fellow Union members.

On March 18, 2009, the Union's business agent, Defendant Carmine DelVicario, visited the Village Shop Rite and expressed the view that Plaintiff's petition should have been shared with the store manager. In doing so, Plaintiff alleges that the business agent violated Plaintiff's due process rights. Plaintiff also alleges that the store manager violated his rights when he asked Plaintiff about the petition, his union activities. At that point, the store manager instructed Plaintiff not to "do it on [Shop Rite's] time." (Am. Compl., p. 3.)

On March 19, 2009, the Treasurer of the Local, Defendant Anthony Benigno, allegedly visited the Village Shop Rite, and suggested that Plaintiff "let things settle." (Am. Compl., p. 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he should have had the Union's "undivided loyalty." (Id.) The same day, some sort of fax was sent to the Union President, which somehow allegedly caused the President to violate a provision of the Union Constitution prohibiting abuse of a fellow member.

On March 21, 2009, the store manager called Plaintiff to his office, warned Plaintiff that he told him "not to do it" on the store's time, and told Plaintiff to clock out and go home, which Plaintiff did. Plaintiff alleges that the store manager violated Plaintiff's rights by not giving him a written or verbal warning, and by terminating Plaintiff without good and just cause.

Plaintiff calls attention to the fact that he is Black, and asserts that the same week, a Caucasian Union member was caught on the phone by a district manager and, although such offense called for immediate termination, that individual received only verbal discipline.

Plaintiff alleges that the International Union President, Joseph Hansen, violated Plaintiff's due process and equal protection rights by not enforcing the Union's constitution and by-laws.

The Union scheduled a meeting with Plaintiff for April 3, 2009. At that time, the Local's business agent informed Plaintiff that the store had a video tape of Plaintiff "loafing" for eight to nine minutes, and therefore the store was able to fire Plaintiff for cause. Accordingly, the Union would not be representing Plaintiff. An April 6, 2009 letter from Mr. DelVicario to Plaintiff, attached as Exhibit 5 to the Amended Complaint, states:

As you are aware, a grievance meeting was scheduled on your behalf for Friday, April 3, 2009. Upon your arrival Greg Torian and myself advised you that the Employer was in the possession of a video regarding this matter. We advised you that we would continue with the meeting and allow you to watch the video. You then refused to enter the ...


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